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Sir Tony Robinson to open Restaging Revolutions at Camden Archives

Exhibition preview

ON TUESDAY, February 11, 2014, Blackadder and Time Team star Sir Tony Robinson opens Restaging Revolutions at Camden Archives, an exhibition celebrating the alternative theatre movement of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The exhibition runs until May 10. Other speakers include Ian Saville: socialist conjuror extraordinaire and John Ashford: first Theatre Editor of Time Out and Theatre Programmer at the ICA.

Over a twenty-year period from 1968 to the late 1980s, a theatre movement flourished in the UK that was to overturn the old order of the drama establishment and offer alternatives that were artistically revolutionary and politically radical. It was to take theatre way beyond the constraints of the old playhouses and into new and unexpected arenas, finding wider audiences with work that was both accessible and challenging.

In 1968, with a newfound liberation granted by the lifting of old censorship laws administered by the Lord Chamberlain, theatre-makers became free to express any agenda they chose. Companies were created and work was staged for groups who had hitherto been unrepresented by the old order.

Feminist theatre was born, work by gay, black, Asian and disability groups was made and fiercely agit-prop, inclusive community, TIE and experimental companies burgeoned until the funding crisis of the mid 1980s forced most companies to close. This movement became known as Alternative Theatre and its effects reverberate still in the theatre of today.

Camden was a key centre for a huge number of theatre companies and organisations from Inter-Action to Action Space and venues from the Arts Lab Drury Lane to the Drill Hall, the Roundhouse to the New End. The exhibition features posters and artefacts from a wealth of companies from the period from Wherehouse La MaMa and Clean Break to Graeae and Theatre of Black Women.

Unfinished Histories – Re-Staging Revolutions is an exhibition and series of talks that focuses on Lambeth and Camden, two key London Boroughs that were central to the movement. Produced by Unfinished Histories with support from Heritage Lottery Fund, it charts the history of the alternative theatre movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The exhibition features companies with such evocative names as Hesitate and Demonstrate, The Phantom Captain, Sadista Sisters, Recreation Ground, Umoja and Monstrous Regiment and on display are rare archives from the period and extensive interviews with the key practitioners of the movement who shed light on the creative practices and motivations of this amazing period.

The exhibition was originally staged at Ovalhouse in November 2013 to celebrate their 50th anniversary and was dedicated to the memory of Kate Crutchley, Oval House theatre programmer during the 1980s.

Accompanying Events

Tuesday, April 8 – Alternative Theatre in Camden: a (Virtual) Tour: talk by Dr Susan Croft.

Tuesday, April 22 – Camden Premieres: a selection of plays given their first performances by Camden venues and companies, 1968-88.

Viewing times

The Centre is open Monday and Tuesday 10am – 6pm, Thursday 10am – 7pm, Friday by appointment, and every other Saturday 10am – 5pm.

Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, 2nd Floor, Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8PA